WASHINGTON, D.C. (ABC4) – The Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute announced Tuesday that 25 American flamingos and one Northern pintail duck were killed by a wild fox.

In a statement, the Zoo says Bird House staff arrived and discovered 25 dead flamingos, one dead duck, and saw a fox in the Zoo’s outdoor flamingo yard. The fox was able to escape the yard after being spotted.

The flock — which originally had 74 flamingos — was then moved indoors to their barn and the ducks were moved to a covered, secure outdoor space.

“This is a heartbreaking loss for us and everyone who cares about our animals,” said Brandie Smith, John and Adrienne Mars Director, Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute. “The barrier we used passed inspection and is used by other accredited zoos across the country. Our focus now is on the well-being of the remaining flock and fortifying our habitats.”

Officials say the last inspection of the outdoor yards surrounding the Bird House was conducted on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Based on that inspection, there were no concerns.

A May 2 inspection revealed:

  • A new softball-sized hole in the heavy-duty metal mesh that surrounds the outdoor yard.
  • There was no breach to the dig barrier in the outdoor exhibit.
  • The Zoo is actively investigating the incident and has taken the following immediate actions: 
    • Metal mesh surrounding the flamingo yard has been reinforced. It was last replaced in 2017 and passed an accreditation inspection by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
    • Live traps have been set around the outdoor yard to catch any predators. 
    • Digital camera traps with an infrared sensor triggered by movement have been set up to photograph overnight activity.

Three additional flamingos were injured and are being treated at the Zoo’s veterinary hospital, the zoo said.

The flamingo exhibit has been at the Zoo since the 1970s as currently designed and this is the first predator mesh breach.